February 25 2022 COVID-19 report


Dear Colleagues: Welcome to my Friday, February 25 blog during this twenty fifth month of COVID-19 in Ontario. You can find earlier update reports here, including thematic pieces in Doris’ COVID-19 Blog. And, for the many resources RNAO offers on COVID-19, please visit the COVID-19 Portal where you will also find RNAO media hits and releases on the pandemic here. Daily Situational Reports from Ontario’s MOH EOC can be found here. Share this report and link broadly. Scroll down for upcoming RNAO webinars.

Dear colleagues,

I am witnessing with shock and pain the brutal invasion of Ukraine. I want to quote Rabbi Jonathan Cohen, from the Oraynu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in Toronto, who says:

"It is heartbreaking to watch the tragedy of war unfolding in Ukraine caused by the aggression of Putin's Russia.  We may ask ourselves, "Why does this happen?  Cannot humanity do better than this?"  And we may also ask ourselves what, if anything, can we do.  These are not easy questions."

"One thing we can do is bear witness to these events rather than turning away from them. There may be more that we can do (e.g., supporting humanitarian relief efforts), but bearing witness itself is a very important act." 

So, we will bear witness to these horrifying events and keep fighting for justice and peace for all peoples everywhere.

We are very proud of the 25 months of continuous publication of this COVID report! What a long and intense ride this has been! This is a note to inform you that I will be reducing the frequency of the blog from weekly to a bi-weekly issue – second and last Friday of each month.  As such, the next Blog will be Friday, March 11. We look forward to continuing to provide updates and food-for-thought. Thanks for continuing to share this space with us.

The siege and occupation of Ottawa and other serious life-disruptions across the province and Canada have thankfully calmed down, leaving most of us concerned. Although the crisis has subsided, the threat of far-right extremism in Canada has not. As a society, we need to address the underlying social factors that drive vulnerable and aggrieved people to be seduced by extreme ideologies, and we need to keep a strong hand against those who lead those hateful movements. If we care about the health of Canadians, we will need to continue to be vigilant on these matters. See below two articles addressing some of the lessons from the so-called “Freedom Convoy”.

This week we share: 1) RNAO held its Queen’s Park Day on Feb 24; 2) RNAO released its 2022 provincial election platform; 3) Black and Indigenous protesters are treated differently than the ‘convoy’ because of Canada’s ongoing racism and 4) finding solutions for Canada’s alt-right radicalization.

RNAO held its Queen’s Park Day on Feb 24

RNAO’s 22nd annual Queen’s Park Day (QPD) happened virtually on Thursday, Feb. 24.

This year’s event included discussion of RNAO's provincial election platform (see below) and presentations from Ontario's political party leaders and health critics. Members discussed the province’s nursing crisis, with a focus on the retention and recruitment of nurses as well as care delivery. RNAO released its 2022 provincial election asks during a media conference in the morning, before QPD. In the next blog we will include a detailed report on the presentations and discussions.

Visit the official event page and view the agenda.

RNAO releases its 2022 provincial election platform; calls on party leaders to prioritize Ontarians’ health

Toronto, Feb. 24, 2022. The next provincial election will take place against the backdrop of a pandemic that has exacted a toll on people’s physical and mental health, the nursing profession and Ontario’s health system.

To help steer the province through the effects of a devastating pandemic, the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) released a provincial election platform Thursday during its annual Queen’s Park Day. Ontario’s nursing crisis: Your health, your health system outlines recommendations it wants all political parties to adopt ahead of the June 2 election. The recommendations cover five key areas that shape people’s ability to be healthy: the environment, social determinants of health, nursing, care delivery and fiscal capacity. 

“This election comes at a pivotal time in our province’s history. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed environmental, social and economic inequities. The most vulnerable and racialized groups in society were especially affected,” says RNAO’s CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun. RNAO recommends that all political parties commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and ensuring universal access to clean water. Guaranteeing 10 paid sick days for all employees, raising the minimum wage to $17 per hour and building more affordable and supportive housing units are a must to help those affected disproportionately by the pandemic. Simply stated “environmental and social poverty results in ill-health,” says Grinspun, adding the opioid overdose crisis is a repercussion of the social deprivation exacerbated by COVID-19.
“Central to our platform is the nursing crisis. We entered the pandemic with a shortfall of 22,000 RNs. Two years later, the profession is bleeding and needs an infusion of RNs because of the exhaustion and burnout COVID-19 has dealt,” says Grinspun. “Our collapsing health system is a direct result of the RN shortage,” Grinspun adds. To improve access to care for Ontarians we need at a minimum 22,000 additional RNs in the next four years. And we need 50 per cent more NPs in the next four years. And, they must all be working at full scope of practice. 

Retaining RNs remains a challenge in Ontario. This is primarily because of Bill 124. That’s why “RNAO’s platform insists on the immediate repeal of Bill 124 and substantially increasing compensation to keep RNs in Ontario,” says Grinspun. Building up the supply of RNs, once retention is in progress, is achievable by continuing to increase nursing school enrolments and creating multiple pathways so personal support workers can become RPNs, RPNs can become RNs, and RNs can become NPs – allowing all to build their careers in Ontario. “RNAO’s platform also calls for expediting the applications of more than 20,000 internationally educated nurses already living in Ontario and who are eager to join the workforce,” adds Grinspun. 

RNAO’s platform also outlines broad health system changes to better meet people’s health-care needs. “We must learn from the tragic losses in long-term care (LTC) so it never happens again,” says RNAO president Morgan Hoffarth. That’s why RNAO’s platform recommends implementing a comprehensive seniors’ care strategy that would assist seniors to remain at home as long as possible by investing in home care. And, to have faster access to LTC if and when such care is needed. RNAO also believes that access to home care and LTC must be universally available to all those who need it. “Safe and dignified care in LTC requires more than additional beds. It necessitates enshrining RNAO’s Nursing Home Basic Care Guarantee in legislation so that every resident receives four worked hours of nursing and personal care per day,” adds Hoffarth. RNAO also urges parties to embed its world-renowned evidence-based best practice guidelines in the electronic medical records (EMRs) of LTC homes, so that residents receive up-to-date optimal care.  

We must understand the importance of funding all sectors. This is why RNAO’s platform calls for a well funded public health sector so it can respond effectively in good times and in a health crisis. It also calls for mandating RN-to-patient ratios in ICUs and ICU transfer units to prevent future attrition and ensure we can keep RNs to tackle the catastrophic backlogs for surgical and diagnostic procedures. The pandemic also showed the benefits of integrated health systems of care such as Ontario Health Teams (OHT). This is why RNAO is calling for the expansion of OHTs and anchoring them in primary care – a hallmark of a well-functioning health system. RNAO says measures to improve access to primary care such as increasing the number of NP-led clinics and relocating the 4,500 RN care coordinators in primary care settings and OHTs are necessary for effective system integration. 

At a time when Canadians have been asked to examine the country’s history, RNAO says that political parties must commit to addressing the needs of Indigenous Peoples. This means working with Ottawa to respond to the 94 calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report, and helping First Nations communities search for unmarked graves on the sites of former residential schools in Ontario. Permanently funding 50 community wellness nurses and increasing funding and resources to ensure First Nations communities can meet their public health needs are also essential.  

Ontario has the fiscal capacity to pay for the recommendations included in RNAO’s platform. Currently, the province spends less on health programs on a per capita basis than other jurisdictions and it collects less tax revenue than most other provinces as a measure of gross domestic product. “Investments in our health and health system will pay off now and in the future. It’s good public policy that will benefit all of us years down the road,” says Hoffarth.   

“Nurses were at the forefront of the pandemic and know what changes are needed to help Ontarians and the province now and post pandemic,” says Hoffarth. “Without adequate and equitable health care, people suffer. Without sufficient health human resources across every sector, our province’s nurses face the brunt and access to care is compromised. RNAO’s platform is a clear blueprint and the only way forward to improve the health of Ontarians, build up our profession, and make our health system better integrated and more responsive to people’s needs.”

RNAO has shared its platform with all of the party leaders and will post each political party’s responses to its recommendations on its website as they’re received. 

Black and Indigenous protesters are treated differently than the ‘convoy’ because of Canada’s ongoing racism

This is a 17 February article by Audra Diptée, Associate Professor of History at Carleton University. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Since the beginning of the supposed “freedom convoy” in Ottawa on Jan. 28, there have been complaints about the failure of the police and government to protect its citizens from verbal harassment, noise pollution and, in some cases, hate speech. Experts have connected the convoy to white supremacist ideologies.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a national state of emergency on Feb. 14, invoking the Emergencies Act for the first time in Canadian history. Ontario Premier Doug Ford called a provincial state of emergency on Feb. 11. However, the convoy had grown for days before these actions were taken.

The convoy protest began as a statement against vaccination requirements for truck drivers crossing the border between Canada and the United States. But trucker unions have distanced themselves from the convoy and said that 90 per cent of their members are vaccinated.

Two questions immediately come to mind. Why did it take so long for police and governments to protect Ottawa residents and businesses from reportedly volatile protestors? And if the convoy was organized by Black and Indigenous groups, would the response by both the police and government have been more severe?

The Canadian historian David Austin has explored the politics of race and protest in his book Fear of a Black Nation. Given his analysis of police responses to Black protest in Montreal during the 1960s, it is clear that the failure of the police to protect the residents of Ottawa by controlling this protest earlier is a part of the legacy of colonialism in Canada.

Protest and Black Lives Matter

Putting these events in the larger context and history of social protests for equity, and recognition of rights by racialized groups in Canada, these concerns have some legitimacy.

In contrast to the tolerance the convoy was given, the Canadian state via its police forces has demonstrated a low tolerance to Black protests in the fight for equity and justice.

For example, in 2016, on the very first day of a peaceful demonstration in Toronto, participants of the Black Lives Movement were beaten and gassed by the police. Four years later, in Ottawa, a protest at a key intersection advocating for Black and Indigenous lives resulted in 12 people being charged and the protests being removed within three days.

The response of city police departments across the country to the Black Lives Movement leaves little doubt about how these colonial underpinnings shape the operation of government institutions even today.

In his book The Skin We’re In, Toronto journalist Desmond Cole said: the Canadian state “works exactly as it was designed to.”

He goes on to explain that state institutions, such as the police, are a product of a white supremacist ideology informed by white European colonial thinking and practice. This starts, of course, with the theft of land from Indigenous peoples.

A long history of Black protest

The pattern of using state infrastructure and the law to regulate and police Black people in Canada goes as far back as the 17th century.

Up until the 19th century, there were white people on Canadian soil who had the legal right to own the bodies of Black people. This was written into the law so that enslaved people were denied all rights – including the right to live.

Even back then, people of African descent were participating in acts of resistance that were precursors to the Black Lives Matter protests of the 21st century.

In her extensive research on Upper Canada, historian Afua Cooper has shown how Black people living under slavery resisted the unjust laws that kept them oppressed. Sometimes they protested their enslavement through legal challenges in the court system. Other times, they openly rebelled against the system that denied them their humanity.

A shared and common story told by Canadians is that Canada was a place of refuge for enslaved Black people fleeing the United States. Cooper’s research validates these notions, but she also shows something else.

She shows that some of the enslaved in Upper Canada escaped to parts of the United States that had already prohibited slavery, or were in the process of passing legislation. These were places such as Michigan, Ohio and New York. Therefore, a little told story is how Black people escaped slavery in Upper Canada to find freedom south of the border.

Policing Black people

The racism that justified the existence of slavery in Upper and Lower Canada found new forms of expression after abolition — not just in its laws and policies, but in the attitudes of its populace.

What made the systems of inequity particularly insidious in the Canadian context, is that many forms of discrimination existed in practice but not in law.

For example, when Black Nova Scotian Viola Desmond refused to leave the whites-only area of a cinema in 1946, she was not fighting against a particular racist law. She was fighting against racial segregation as accepted Canadian practice.

Similarly, when Black and Indigenous people protest today, they are not doing so in opposition to any explicitly racist laws. They are protesting the racist attitudes that inform accepted Canadian practice which has been institutionalized into the systems of policing, the courts and education.

The right to protest

It is these historically accepted Canadian practices that have guaranteed participants in the “freedom convoy” minimal police and state interference, as they assume the right to occupy public space while displaying racist symbols and simultaneously claiming to fight for freedom.

On Sunday, the Ottawa mayor’s office announced that it “reached an agreement” with the organizers of the convoy to relocate some of trucks, but that the protest continued.

This is in sharp contrast to protests organized by racialized peoples. What is the way forward?

The first step must be a recognition and admission that racist and discriminatory practices have been institutionalized — even if they are not explicitly stated.

The second step requires developing specific strategies and actionable steps that will address the colonial practice of violence against racialized people by the state and its supporting institutions such as the police.

Finally, there must be harsh repercussions for those acting on behalf of the state who support illegal protests and violate the right of racialized Canadians participating in organized protests in the fight for equity and justice.

Solutions exist for Canada’s alt-right radicalization

This is a 15 February article by Jennifer Wolowic, who co-leads the Strengthening Canadian Democracy Initiative at the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, Simon Fraser University. Kelly Grounds co-authored this article. She has worked as a junior policy analyst in cybersecurity and as a research assistant on disinformation projects. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

While enacting the Emergencies Act may clear our streets, the protests have revealed the foothold alt-right extremism has in Canada. The government response has been outmatched by internet-based misinformation, organization and recruitment.

For the last three weeks, we have watched radicalization happen in real time.

Experts note that radicalization often begins with a person’s desire to belong, and belonging is cultivated around shared interests, fears and opportunities to feel heard. People then join a group by embracing the shared symbols and rhetoric — movements become radical extremism when people embrace personal attacks as a means to feel empowered at the expense of others.

Supporters of the “freedom convoy” have used COVID-19 vaccine mandates as a rallying cry and hatred has been used to empower and bind the movement together. Leaders of the movement are using common populist tools to turn frustrations into rhetoric of rage and symbols of fear.

The result: more than 400 reported incidents of hate in Ottawa in three weeks.

While “freedom convoy” supporters may be a minority in Canada, social science has shown it only takes a committed minority to shift a whole group.

To turn back the tides of radicalization and hate, Canada needs investments in our democratic culture, improvements in policing and support for grassroots efforts. We can look to international and local examples for practical solutions.

Invest in democratic culture

Canada ranks as one of the strongest democracies in the world, but our research at the Simon Fraser University Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue’s Strengthening Canadian Democracy Initative has shown that many people have a hard time explaining how their personal actions relate to democracy. Democracy feels disconnected from community and civic life.

To heal the rift, we can look to the Council of Europe for help. Their Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture names a total of 20 critical understandings, values, attitudes and skills that people must cultivate in competent democracies. The framework also puts these ideas into practice for ministries of education and practitioners.

As part of its commitments to democracy, the federal government needs to invest in a national effort to develop its own framework of democratic skills, attitudes and knowledge, immersed in truth and reconciliation and adapted to our particular form of immigration and multiculturalism.

We need a formal process for creating a national dialogue about the attitudes and behaviours we want in our democracy.

Invest in police reform

Canadians promote respect for the rule of law, but the protests have documented the truth: the law treats Canadians differently based on their skin colour.

RCMP are quickly militarized to push Indigenous people off their land when they blockaded pipelines, but police have not removed white protesters with the same vigour.

The hypocrisy of the last three weeks erodes trust in all our institutions.

To restore trust, the rest of Canada should follow Nova Scotia’s lead. Last month, Halifax released a list of 36 recommendations to re-task police, reform practices and accountability to improve public safety.

All levels of government need to invest in similar commissions and, more importantly, enact their recommendations.

Invest in de-radicalization

The federal government may have a 2018 National Strategy on Countering Radicalization to Violence, and invested in countering misinformation through its Digital Citizen Initiative, but they have yet to be scaled up effectively.

To shrink the foothold of alt-right fascism, we can look to Norway and Germany’s EXIT programs. These approaches model a national strategy that supports grassroots counselling and family support to help those leave radicalized groups.

They encourage people to build new productive relationships and promote trust among communities and institutions. They are hailed as one of the most successful de-radicalization strategies, and in Norway, their efforts are believed to have eliminated the threat entirely.

Effective grassroots programs exist in North America and can be scaled. Life After Hate uses support networks to help people move away from radicalization. In Canada, the Organization for the Prevention of Violence works with communities to develop public education campaigns tailored to different extremist beliefs. These approaches also fulfil the need for community that often draws people to extremism in the first place.

Most de-radicalization approaches emphasize using dialogue: building empathy and exploring the values and motivations at the foundation of someone’s ideas.

It’s challenging to forcibly convince someone they are wrong, but loved ones can reintroduce them to trustworthy news sources, reduce confirmation bias and reconnect with communities that bring them joy.

Invest in local democracy

If radicalization is tempting because it creates belonging and a sense of empowerment, we need to invest in democratic forms of those experiences in our own backyards.

Scotland, for example, has passed the Community Empowerment Act. The act provides a fund to allow communities to tackle poverty on their own terms. It also creates community councils to elevate citizen voices in government and encourages deliberative activities to involve residents in solutions.

Canada often creates funding opportunities and programs to encourage solutions to important problems — it’s time to ensure those take place at national and local levels to promote democratic skills, belonging and empowerment. Proven solutions exist. We just need to invest in them.


Indigenous Foodways to Sustain Wellness Webinar

Mar 8, 2022, 7:00pm - 9:00pm

This webinar is in partnership with the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO), Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), Chiefs of Ontario (COO), the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Shkaabe Makwa, the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association (CINA) and Ontario First Nation Young Peoples Council (OFNYPC). 

This webinar will:

  • deepen the understanding of colonialism and systemic racism and it's impact on Indigenous health 
  • discuss the current lived experiences of Indigenous peoples and the actions that are necessary to create meaningful change
  • bring greater awareness about the impact of Indigenous food and foodways programing 
  • further understanding of and connection with Indigenous foods through stories and discussion of the role of food as our medicine
  • discover tools and resources that health-care providers can apply in practice to support Indigenous wellness


  • Melinda Sault Coates, food security coordinator, Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN)
  • Kelly Gordon, RD, team manager- Health Promotion, Six Nations Health Services
  • Kitty R.Lynn Lickers, MA, community food animator, Six Nations Health Services

Read the full bios. REGISTER NOW.

COVID-19 Webinar Series

Mar 14, 2022, 2:00pm - 4:00pm

When: Every second Monday of the month

RNAO's CEO Doris Grinspun will be hosting COVID-19 webinars for health providers.

Topics include:

  • updates on COVID-19 and the health system: latest news and pressing issues
  • guest speakers (as available)
  • questions and answers
  • calls to action

Health providers from Ontario, Canada, and anywhere in the world are welcome to join at no cost.

We are here with you in solidarity. Together, we will continue to tackle COVID-19 with the best tools at hand, including accurate information, calmness, determination and swift actions!

Details and registrations coming soon. Archived webinars can be found here.

MOH EOC Situational Report

We are posting each day the Daily Situational Reports from Ontario's MOH EOC at RNAO’s website. That way, you can access the Ministry’s guidance at any time.

For a detailed Ontario epidemiological summary from Public Health Ontario, you can go here.

According to the latest Situation Report #623 for February 24, the case count was as follows: 1,093,930 total, + 2,404 change from yesterday; 12,347 deaths, +41 change from yesterday.

Staying in touch          

Keeping in touch and being part of a community helps us get through challenging times. Keep telling us how we, at RNAO, can best support you. Send us your questions, comments, and challenges. Recommend ideas for articles and webinars. Write to me at <dgrinspun@rnao.ca> and copy to < ceo-ea@rnao.ca>. RNAO’s Board of Directors and our entire staff want you to know: WE ARE HERE FOR YOU!

Thank you for continuing to be there for your community, everywhere and in all roles! Together, in solidarity, we are stronger. Thanks for encouraging your colleagues, their loved ones and your communities to be fully vaccinated – including booster shots. Keep reminding them that COVID-19 is aerosol and that proper ventilation and N95 masking is not just preferred but necessary.

Let’s also be thoughtful and remember Dr. Tedros when he said that “#VaccineEquity is not an act of charity; it’s the best and fastest way to control the pandemic globally, and to reboot the global economy.” Canada has purchased more vaccines than what it needs, while the poorest countries in the world have almost nothing. Like with other challenges we face – systemic discrimination and climate change – we are not safe until everyone is safe. Vaccines for all – literally for all, across the world – must guide policy in the upcoming months. Let’s learn from the 22-month pandemic and take real action to build a better world.

To everyone – THANK YOU! Please take care of yourself and know that RNAO always stands by you!

Here’s one constant throughout the pandemic. The silver lining of COVID-19 has been to come together and work as one people for the good of all. Let’s join efforts to demand that political leaders protect patients, students, and workers – and secure #Vaccines4All.

Doris Grinspun, RN,MSN, PhD, LLD(hon), Dr(hc), FAAN, FCAN, O.ONT
Chief Executive Officer, RNAO


16 Feb - A better post-pandemic future means not giving in to COVID-19 now – go here.

16 Feb - Restoring community dialogue and resilience: The next COVID-19 emergency – go here.

16 Feb - Key public health measures needed to address catastrophic surgical backlog – go here.

10 Feb - Whose freedom is the ‘freedom convoy’ fighting for? Not everyone’s – go here.

10 Feb - The whole world should be worried by the ‘siege of Ottawa’. This is about much more than a few anti-vaxx truckers – go here.

10 Feb - Nursing report calls to end anti-Black racism and discrimination within the profession – go here.

10 Feb - Visit RNAO’s In Focus page on Black Nurses – go here.

2 Feb - Let’s not play Russian roulette with Omicron and embrace it as inevitable – go here.

2 Feb - RNAO calls out extremist and hateful actions driven by far-right on display in Ottawa – go here.

2 Feb - Honouring Black History Month 2022 – go here.

26 Jan - Listening to internationally educated nurses living in Ontario and eager to nurse – go here.

26 Jan - RNAO’s letter to the College of Nurses of Ontario regarding IENs – go here.

26 Jan - Prioritize health system pressures ahead of lifting public health measures – go here.

18 Jan - TousAntiCovid - France's contact tracing tool and health pass – go here.

18 Jan - RNAO’s submission to the Toronto Board of Health on return to school – go here.

12 Jan - A message as we begin 2022 amid a fifth wave – go here.

12 Jan - A health system on the verge of total collapse – An open letter to Premier Doug Ford – go here.

12 Jan - RNAO’s continuing media profile: The December 2021 report – go here.

12 Jan - Canada isn’t responding with foresight when it comes to COVID-19 – go here.

21 Dec - RNAO addresses nursing crisis, Omicrom-led wave and preventing health-system collapse – go here.

14 Dec - What we know about Omicron two weeks after it became a variant of concern – go here.

14 Dec - Omicron variant caseload expected to 'rapidly escalate' in the coming days, Tam says – go here.

14 Dec - Repeal Bill 124 – RNAO asks for pledge of support from Members of the Provincial Parliament – go here.

14 Dec - Ontario’s nursing crisis: Next steps in #RepealBill124 campaign – go here.

7 Dec - RNAO’s continuing media profile: The November 2021 report – go here.

7 Dec - South African envoy calls on Canada to support waiver on COVID-19 vaccines – go here.

7 Dec - RNAO welcomes expansion of boosters and says Omicron is the #VaccineInjusticeVariant – go here.

We have posted earlier ones in my blog here. I invite you to look.